New York State Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County) announced that his bill (S.7538) to overhaul New York’s antiquated village incorporation laws was signed by the Governor, enacting critical updates to the 1800s-era statutes, protecting local and county taxpayers from reckless development, and defeating the proposed Hasidic Village of Seven Springs.
When an annexation of land from the Town of Monroe to the existing Village of Kiryas Joel took place in 2017, a handful of disgruntled property owners left out of the newly-annexed territory attempted to form a separate village of their own in 2018 that included wide tracts of undeveloped land. The proposed village of approximately 600 residents, to be known as Seven Springs, received near-zero public support, yet very little could be done to oppose the petition under existing state law governing the establishment of villages.
Skoufis immediately introduced legislation to strengthen the state’s village incorporation statute. This year, buoyed by findings of a report from Pace University’s Elisabeth Haub School of Law on the need to reform and refine these processes, Skoufis’ legislation passed both houses and was signed by the Governor on December 23. Key provisions include:
* Increasing the minimum number of residents required for new village incorporation from 500 to 1500, better reflecting the population growth of New York State over the past 150 years. This provision will block the proposed Village of Seven Springs from advancing.
* Eliminating a section of law that enables owners of half the property value within the proposed village area to petition for incorporation, a vestige of the political power of the 1800s.
* Requiring a study be conducted on the fiscal, service, and taxation impacts on the residents of the proposed village, and the residents of the surrounding town, in order for a village incorporation to move forward.
“The Seven Springs fiasco, which would have proven an impossible lift for local taxpayers all so a couple of wealthy developers could make a buck, has come to an end,” said Senator Skoufis. “New villages require key services, such as sanitation, highway maintenance, and public safety. The suggestion that as few as 60 to 70 homes could sustain a robust municipal infrastructure was laughable, but would have done real and lasting harm to area taxpayers. While the Governor and I may not always see eye to eye, I am thankful she recognized the importance of this legislation.”
“For far too long, village incorporation law has been stuck in past centuries,” said Assemblymember Chris Eachus (D-New Windsor), whose district would have included the proposed Seven Springs. “What we have seen as a consequence is new villages being formed around the state, not by the will of residents for increased government services, but by business interests for purely financial gain at the cost of irreparable environmental damage. This bill rectifies that, brings New York into the 21st century, and gives the voice back to the people–not real estate developers. I thank Senator Skoufis for his tireless efforts, and am proud to have pushed this effort across the finish line in the Assembly.”